PORTLAND—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ basketball team wanted to create a memory Friday evening at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building when it took on top-ranked, highly-touted Oceanside in a Class B South quarterfinal.

And the Capers did exactly that.

But they couldn’t quite secure a victory as well in a down-to-the-wire thriller in front of a raucous crowd.

After falling behind early, 5-0, Cape Elizabeth shot to a 14-12 lead after one quarter, as senior James Rickman made a go-ahead layup just before the horn.

The Capers continued to hold the potent Mariners at bay in the second period and behind 3-pointers from seniors Sam Lombardo, Owen Tighe and Eddie Caldera, shocked those on hand by holding a 28-18 advantage at the half.

When Caldera made a layup with 3:38 to go in the third quarter, Cape Elizabeth shockingly was up by 14, but Oceanside would roar back, closing the frame on an 11-0 run, capped by a driving layup from senior Alex Bartlett, to pull within 36-33.


Then, with 3:56 remaining, a driving reverse layup from junior Cohen Galley gave the Mariners their first lead since the first quarter.

Oceanside went up by four, then on four different occasions, the Capers closed within a single point, but they never could regain the lead.

Four late free throws and a critical forced turnover by Galley then closed it out and the Mariners escaped with a 54-51 victory.

Oceanside improved to 18-1, advanced to meet No. 4 Medomak Valley (14-5) in the semifinals Tuesday at 7:45 p.m., at the Expo and in the process, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 11-9.

“We talked before the game about trying to create a memory tonight and as great as it would have been to win, I think we still did that,” said Capers coach Jeff Mitchell. “I’m absolutely thrilled with the performance and the effort. We just didn’t end up on the right side of the scoreboard.”

Heroic effort


Cape Elizabeth has struggled all season to find consistency, as reflected in its record (see sidebar for links to previous stories), but the Capers earned a big dose of confidence with Tuesday’s 61-42 home win over No. 9 Lake Region in the preliminary round.

Oceanside, meanwhile, came into the year as a favorite and hasn’t disappointed, winning its first five games and after a two-point loss to Winslow, capturing 12 straight to wind up first in the region.

The teams didn’t meet this winter and had no playoff history.

They quickly made some as Cape Elizabeth threatened to wake up the echoes from its 2004 8-vs.-1 upset win over Falmouth before the Mariners did just enough to pull it out late.

Cape Elizabeth seniors Ben Altenburg (21) and Owen Tighe smother Oceanside senior Alex Collins early in the Mariners’ 54-51 victory Friday. Hoffer photos.

Oceanside got off to a fast start, as senior Alex Collins made two free throws 20 seconds in, then junior Carter Galley knocked down a 3 to make it 5-0 just 48 seconds into the contest.

The Capers then came to life and scored the next nine points.


With 6:52 to go in the first period, senior Andrew Trachimowicz set up classmate Tony Dell’Aquila for a 3, then Lombardo drove for a layup to tie it.

With 4:34 left in the frame, Tighe drove for a layup and his first points and the underdogs were on top.

After senior Ben Altenburg added to the lead with a putback, the Mariners snapped the run and a 4 minute, 25 second scoring drought on a 3-ball from Cohen Galley, but Tighe answered with a 3 of his own.

Sophomore Zeb Foster drove for a layup, then Cohen Galley did the same to tie it, but at the horn, Lombardo fed Rickman for a layup and Cape Elizabeth had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until the final stanza, 14-12.

After Rickman grabbed an offensive rebound, he fed Lombardo for a 3-ball to start the second quarter, then Lombardo added a free throw.

The Capers could have really opened up the lead, but went cold themselves and with 3:22 to go before halftime, Foster found Carter Galley for a fastbreak layup to snap a 5:19 drought.


“We played pack-line defense,” Mitchell said. “It’s team defense. It’s 100 percent help and focusing on keeping them out of the paint. We have athletes who can close ground quickly. It’s the best game we played defensively all year.”

Cape Elizabeth answered, as Caldera, who was exceptional off the bench, set up Tighe for a 3 and after Carter Galley answered with a 3-ball, Lombardo scored on a runner in the lane, Lombardo got a leaner to bounce in and with 31 seconds on the clock, Caldera buried a 3-pointer.

Collins got a point back at the line with 10 seconds left, but the Capers sauntered into the locker room up by a shocking 10 points, 28-18.

And they weren’t content to sit on the advantage.

“We talked at halftime about not being afraid to have the lead,” said Mitchell. “We did a good job of that, but we knew there was a run coming.”

Cape Elizabeth senior Owen Tighe looks to pass as Oceanside junior Cohen Galley defends.

Trachimowicz began the second half with a 3-pointer and after Carter Galley made a free throw, then he got a corner 3 to rattle in, Lombardo made a 3, then with 3:38 to go in the third quarter, Rickman snared an offensive rebound and passed to Caldera for a layup and a 36-22 lead.


But Oceanside would flip the switch and close the frame on a surge to get right back in the game.

Foster got things started with a layup after a steal, then Carter Galley made a layup.

After Tighe picked up his third foul, Carter Galley scored on a putback, sophomore Zach Woodman sank a 3, then just before the horn, Bartlett drove for a layup to pull the Mariners within a single possession, 36-33, going to the fourth period.

Where the top-ranked team would finally take care of business.

A minute into the final frame, Cohen Galley drove for a layup to cap the 13-0 run.

Lombardo countered by driving into the lane and getting a runner to drop to snap a 5:11 drought, but at the other end, with 6:09 on the clock, Cohen Galley set up Carter Galley for a corner 3 to tie the score, 38-38, the first deadlock since the game was 12-12.


Lombardo kept the Capers on top by driving for a layup, but Collins countered with two free throws to tie the score again.

With 5:08 left, Caldera drove for a layup, but after Bartlett made one free throw with 4:55 left, Cohen Galley drove and made a reverse layup 59 seconds later to finally give Oceanside the lead for the first time since the score was 5-3.

A lead the Mariners would hold the rest of the way.

With 2:57 remaining, after Foster made a terrific play to save a sure turnover, Collins made a layup while being fouled, then hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play.

Despite being on the ropes, Cape Elizabeth answered right back, as Lombardo found Dell’Aquila in the corner for a 3-pointer that found the net.

The Capers couldn’t get the defensive stop they so desperately needed, however, as Cohen Galley set up Collins for a layup and after Lombardo banked home a shot, Cohen Galley again drove and made a clutch reverse layup for a 50-47 lead with 1:38 left.


Lombardo continued to will his team back with a layup 11 seconds later, but Cape Elizabeth had to foul to get the ball back and they fouled Cohen Galley, who calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one with 47 seconds on the clock.

With 24.5 seconds to play, Lombardo set up Caldera for a layup and the Capers were within a point once more, 52-51.

But again, Cohen Galley would go to the line four seconds later and again, he made both shots.

Cape Elizabeth had a chance to tie the game with a 3, but after getting the ball, Lombardo tried to either drive on Cohen Galley for a shot or find an open teammate, but instead, with just 5.5 seconds on the clock, a five-second violation was called.

“That call was a tough one,” Mitchell said.

Woodman was fouled intentionally with just 0.3 seconds showing on the clock and while he missed both attempts, the Mariners were able to subsequently inbounds the ball and that did it.


At 11:05 p.m., Oceanside could exhale and celebrate a hard-fought 54-51 victory.

“Surviving and advancing is all it’s about,” said Mariners coach Larry Reed. “It’s relief. I was scared that we were going to have a great season and bow out in the first round and no one wants that.”

Carter Galley led the Mariners with 19 points (to go with four rebounds). Cohen Galley was superb late and added 15 points, four steals and four assists. Collins also wound up in double figures with 10 points (to go with six rebounds).

Foster had four points and Bartlett and Woodman each contributed three.

Oceanside made 12-of-21 free throws and only turned the ball over six times, a mere once after halftime.

“When you’re in the tournament, there are a lot of good teams that you don’t have an opportunity to see during the season,” Reed said. “I scouted (Cape Elizabeth) on video and knew they were a good team. I didn’t know they were that good. They’re a really good defensive team and we were out of sorts for awhile. Some nights you just don’t shoot the ball well, but we turned up our defensive intensity, we got some easy hoops in transition, then the jump shots started to fall. It took awhile to get going. We haven’t been in a lot of these close games, so other teams know that and they want to get to the fourth quarter in a close game and see what happens. I’m very proud of my kids for stepping up. I think we’re a very complete team.”


Oceanside and Medomak Valley know each other well, as the Mariners twice defeated the Panthers this winter, 47-35 in the opener, then 59-24.

“Now we’re down to the final four and we’re going to play our archrival the next game and anything can happen,” Reed said. “They’re a good team. They’re extremely well-coached. It’s hard to beat a team three times, especially on a neutral court, but we don’t have to break down personnel and tendencies because we know them as well as they know us.”

On to next year

For Cape Elizabeth, Lombardo bowed out with a game-high 21 points.

“Sam, offensively, played great,” Mitchell said. “He was the guy keeping us in it.”

Caldera had nine points off the bench, Tighe finished with eight (and seven rebounds), Dell’Aquila had six, Trachimowicz three and Altenburg and Rickman (four rebounds, three assists) two apiece.


The Capers had a 26-21 rebound advantage, but they only shot two free throws (making one) and turned the ball over 17 times.

“The end of the third quarter, that was just a little too much of a run to come back from,” said Mitchell. “They hit their free throws at the end and did what they needed to do to win. I told the guys we played our best game the last game of the season.”

Cape Elizabeth graduates a good chunk of this team.

“I have 12 seniors,” Mitchell said. “They’ve hung out since first grade and that makes it hard to end things. It’s a lot of emotion in the locker room, the finality setting in. I told them that I learned a lot from this group and I became a much better coach. They challenged me a lot. It’s such a fun group to coach. They’re such great personalities. ”

The 2023-24 Capers will have a very different look, but you can rest assured they’ll play hard and will have a great chance to get back to this stage.

“We have some holes to fill,” Mitchell said. “It’s cliche, but next man up. It’s going to be a new look, but we have a system in place. We’ll do a lot of the same stuff.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

Comments are not available on this story.